11/03/2010 9:43AM

Maryland casino vote a setback for MI Developments

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Voters in Anne Arundel County in Maryland on Tuesday rejected a measure that would have overturned zoning approvals for a casino at a mall near Laurel Park, according to Maryland news reports.

The vote clears the way for the development of a billion-dollar casino complex at Arundel Mills Mall. Opponents of the mall, which had included Laurel’s owner, MI Developments, have said that the casino will further exacerbate the problems facing the racing industry, and Laurel’s president, Tom Chuckas, said last week that the opening of the casino will lead MI Developments to close Laurel and hold 40 live racing dates at the company’s sister track, Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore.

UPDATE: Laurel says it won't race next year

The vote was 56-44 in favor of the mall site. Both the developer of the casino, the Cordish Cos., and MI Developments were said to have each spent $6 million campaigning for their sides on the issue.

The opposition of the racing industry was curious in one sense, because casinos in Maryland will provide up to $100 million in annual subsidies to the state’s racing industry regardless of who owns or operates the casinos. A rejection of the casino, the largest planned for Maryland, would have led to at least a two-year delay in getting a casino in Anne Arundel up and running.

David Cordish, the chairman of the Cordish Cos., told the Baltimore Sun that he would apply for a temporary slot license for the mall site early in 2011. The full casino should be up and running by the spring or summer of 2012, Cordish said.

Cordish had earlier put in a bid to buy Laurel Park and Pimlico Racecourse when a subsidiary of MI Developments was shopping the properties as part of its bankruptcy reorganization in 2009. The Maryland properties were ultimately transferred to MI Developments this year when the subsidiary was dissolved.
After Chuckas had said that Laurel would close, Cordish said he would attempt to buy the racetrack. MI Developments responded that the track was not for sale.

Earlier this year, MI Developments sold a 50 percent stake in its Maryland operations to Penn National Gaming Inc., the huge casino and racetrack operator. Penn National already has a license to operate a casino in Maryland, and state law currently restricts companies to one casino license in the state.

* In other election-day news, Alice Forgy Kerr was narrowly re-elected to the State Senate in Kentucky. The racing industry in Kentucky had supported Kerr’s opponent, Donald Blevins, because of Kerr’s opposition to expanded gambling at Kentucky racetracks without a constitutional amendment.

Republicans in Kentucky have most prominently stood in the way of legislation that would allow slot machines and casino-style games in Kentucky. According to voting results on Wednesday morning, Republicans picked up two seats in the State Senate on Tuesday, which would give them a majority of 22 members, compared to 15 Democrats.

Also, Rick Hiles, the president of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, was soundly beaten by the Republican incumbent for a seat in the State Senate. At 10 p.m. on Tuesday night, the incumbent, Julie Carman Denton, had 36,683 votes to Hiles’s 18,291 votes.